The World Health Organisation (WHO) launched an updated edition of drinking water guidelines on July 4 to push water suppliers to systematically manage the potential risk of contaminants entering water, from the catchment to the consumer. Launched at the Singapore International Water Week (http://www.who.int/en/ and http://www.siww.com.sg/), they can help governments strengthen their management of drinking water quality by adopting water safety planning.

“Countries have an opportunity to make substantial public health progress by setting and applying effective and appropriate standards for ensuring safe water,” said Maria Neira, WHO Director of Public Environment and Health.

The guidelines, which have been the most authoritative framework on drinking-water quality and often form the basis for national laws and regulations, require “a paradigm shift in drinking-water management for many countries,” the WHO said. They contain comprehensive good practice recommendations for the first time at different levels, from household rainwater harvesting and safe storage through to policy advice on bulk water supply and the implications of climate change. The last edition was released in 2004.

The new edition is based on the latest scientific evidence and includes hundreds of risk assessments on specific waterborne hazards. It is estimated that two million people die from waterborne diseases and billions more suffer illness around the world, and most of them are children under five. Much of this is preventable, the WHO said.

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